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The World Set Free - Original - [Oxford University Press] - (ANNOTATED)

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Radioactive decay is a major theme in the novel The World Set Free, published in 1914. Wells explores what might happen if the rate of decay could be sped up. The book may have encouraged scientists to explore theories of nuclear chain reaction. It also served as a vehicle for Wells to develop his ideas on survival of the human race.


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Radioactive decay is a major theme in the novel The World Set Free, published in 1914. Wells explores what might happen if the rate of decay could be sped up. The book may have encouraged scientists to explore theories of nuclear chain reaction. It also served as a vehicle for Wells to develop his ideas on survival of the human race.

30 review for The World Set Free - Original - [Oxford University Press] - (ANNOTATED)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    I read this when I was about 11 and I can't remember a thing about it, except that Wells predicts atomic weapons and they finally turn out to be a good thing. I suddenly feel I should re-read it! _________________________________________ Looking for something else, I just made a startling discovery. If we're to believe Leó Szilárd's Wikipedia page, Szilárd, a prominent nuclear physicist, read Wells's book in 1932 and was greatly affected by it. In 1939, with WW II clearly about to start, Szilárd I read this when I was about 11 and I can't remember a thing about it, except that Wells predicts atomic weapons and they finally turn out to be a good thing. I suddenly feel I should re-read it! _________________________________________ Looking for something else, I just made a startling discovery. If we're to believe Leó Szilárd's Wikipedia page, Szilárd, a prominent nuclear physicist, read Wells's book in 1932 and was greatly affected by it. In 1939, with WW II clearly about to start, Szilárd drafted a letter to President Roosevelt, urging him to fund a project which would develop an atomic bomb. Knowing that this would improve his chances, Szilárd persuaded Einstein to co-sign the letter; Einstein's illustrious name did indeed convince Roosevelt, and the direct result was the Manhattan Project, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Cold War. But, so far at least, WW III has not happened. Wells's vision came true. Who says science-fiction writers have no influence on history? And check out the rest of Szilárd's life story - he was evidently a remarkable person.

  2. 5 out of 5

    John

    Like nearly everyone who has already reviewed this book, I found Wells’s prescience astonishing! Admittedly, this was my first H.G. Wells book and I expected the prose to be stronger. Nonetheless, one cannot help but suspect that all the prophetic aspects of the work (atomic energy and atomic weapons) were simply the frame wrapped around the driving force of his social commentary (calling for a World Government). Concerning this World Government, which could be bothersome for some readers, it s Like nearly everyone who has already reviewed this book, I found Wells’s prescience astonishing! Admittedly, this was my first H.G. Wells book and I expected the prose to be stronger. Nonetheless, one cannot help but suspect that all the prophetic aspects of the work (atomic energy and atomic weapons) were simply the frame wrapped around the driving force of his social commentary (calling for a World Government). Concerning this World Government, which could be bothersome for some readers, it should be noted that his vision also embraced some libertarian ideals as well. For example, the narrator points out that as time passed, this government was decreasingly needed or used. This government included progressive ideals also, including the electoral mode of proportional representation. Despite the faults and shortcomings (which seem a bit hypercritical since it was written nearly a hundred years ago) in Wells’s social criticisms and predictions, I amply commend The World Set Free for offering us such a positively hopeful vision of a post-apocalyptic World. If this is indeed the first nuclear based apocalyptic novel (which I feel safe in assuming), its vision of a post-nuclear war environment is indeed beautiful and unmatched in comparison to any post-apocalyptic work written after 1945 that I’ve read. Certainly there is good reason for this, but the vision is no less remarkable for it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Vicky Hunt

    Who’s Watching Now? I undoubtedly will be spoiling the entire book, (including and not limited to the last paragraph) so if you want to read The World Set Free spoiler-free, then save my review for later. But, Wells’ ideas are not trivial and beg to be discussed.Though his writing was remarkably intelligent and he handles his topic brilliantly, he comes to very illogical conclusions, he seems dispassionate and cold in his writing, and it was stiff and almost boring at times, unlike his other bo Who’s Watching Now? I undoubtedly will be spoiling the entire book, (including and not limited to the last paragraph) so if you want to read The World Set Free spoiler-free, then save my review for later. But, Wells’ ideas are not trivial and beg to be discussed.Though his writing was remarkably intelligent and he handles his topic brilliantly, he comes to very illogical conclusions, he seems dispassionate and cold in his writing, and it was stiff and almost boring at times, unlike his other books, which is why I gave it only a 3 star rating. I have read only a few of H.G. Well’s many books, and find most of them imaginative, if not downright enjoyable. But, this was the first time I’d read his nightmare. He was a brilliant man, and a prolific writer. As you probably already know, if you are looking at the book reviews, the story is an imaginary World War scenario written in 1913, and it was published in early 1914… before the outbreak of World War 1 on July 28, 1914. Of course, everyone was expecting war at that time. It was not a shocking prediction. What was shocking was his prediction of the beginnings of mass destruction by mankind. Here, his words were poignant: “All through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the amount of energy that men were able to command was continually increasing. Applied to warfare that meant that the power to inflict a blow, the power to destroy, was continually increasing. There was no increase whatever in the ability to escape.” This book very quickly reminded me of John Lennon's Imagine And, here he begins to imagine a nightmare scenario, a nightmare in all its many facets, in which he imagines each of the following conditions… Mass Destruction on Earth? Wells predicted that mankind would “snare the sun,” by which he referred to the harnessing of the sun’s atomic power. His dream scenario starts with the beginnings of man and proceeds to this “final war,” and on into the development of atomic energy in the form of a bomb, which would be used to great destructive effect in war. He included the all too ghastly radiation fallout, with bombs that detonated repeatedly over many days, due to the half-life of uranium. “The gaunt face hardened to grimness, and with both hands the bomb-thrower lifted the big atomic bomb from the box and steadied it against the side. It was a black sphere two feet in diameter. Between its handles was a little celluloid stud, and to this he bent his head until his lips touched it. Then he had to bite in order to let the air in upon the inducive. Sure of its accessibility, he craned his neck over the side of the aeroplane and judged his pace and distance. Then very quickly he bent forward, bit the stud, and hoisted the bomb over the side. 'Round,' he whispered inaudibly. The bomb flashed blinding scarlet in mid-air, and fell, a descending column of blaze eddying spirally in the midst of a whirlwind.” The Beginning of the End? But, his fantasy didn’t end there. This destruction would cause “an epidemic of sanity to break out among the rulers of states.” Here is where his reasoning seems most bizarre to me. Somehow, this rather intelligent man thought that mass destruction would teach those bent on war anything. This sudden enlightenment would ultimately result in mankind coming together as one, in a full brotherhood of men. These godlike men would lay aside all claims to crowns and estates, and work together to bring peace and harmony on earth. This atomic energy would be applied to the useful energy source for mankind. Death in the Air? But, here it gets really interesting, because Wells set the date for the development of atomic energy as 1933, and in 1956 an atomic bomb will be used in war. Many people focus on the fact that he pushed the date so far into the future, as if he were hedging on a date. I didn’t see it that way, though. World War 1 ended on November 11, 1918. That war spawned numerous inventions. The big tanks began to roll, devastating battle fields in a way like never before. Wells had predicted the use of tanks in battle 13 years before in his short story, “The Land Ironclads.” The first modern hand grenade, the Mills Bomb, was invented 1915, and over 75 million were made during World War I. Likewise, Wells predicted the advent of battles in the air, in this book. WWI indeed saw the rapid growth of air warfare. Wells describes his vision of a dogfight as: “The aeroplanes were fighting at last, and suddenly about him, above and below, with cries and uproar rushing out of the four quarters of heaven, striking, plunging, oversetting, soaring to the zenith and dropping to the ground, they came to assail or defend the myriads below.” “Men rode upon the whirlwind that night and slew and fell like archangels. The sky rained heroes upon the astonished earth. Surely the last fights of mankind were the best. What was the heavy pounding of your Homeric swordsmen, what was the creaking charge of chariots, beside this swift rush, this crash, this giddy triumph, this headlong swoop to death? And then athwart this whirling rush of aerial duels that swooped and locked and dropped in the void between the lamp-lights and the stars…” Wow! Beautifully descriptive imagery, for such devastation. Among these archangel-like planes are 5 that carry atomic bombs. WW1 came and went without atomic energy being developed. But, the physicist Leó Szilárd read Wells’ book in 1932. In 1933 Szilárd conceived the idea of a neutron chain reaction, and patented it in 1934. He and his team then sent a letter to FDR urging him to take charge in the development of this particularly dangerous weapon, and the rest is the history of the Manhattan Project (1942-1946.) World War II lasted from 1939 to 1945, and ended with… a couple of atomic bombs wiping out two Japanese cities in August. The first chapter seemed quite dry, and it was difficult to hold interest through much of it. But, the bomb was dropped midway through the second chapter, and from there he had my attention. The book is probably one of the worst case scenarios of the prejudicial thinking brought about by evolutionary teaching in that time period. This is really quite common in that day though, and in all Wells’ books, as it was taught in Science. Throughout, the book is riddled with examples of white supremacy, which he hints at in the preface with: “…the native common sense of the French mind and of the English mind— for manifestly King Egbert is meant to be 'God's Englishman'— leading mankind towards a bold and resolute effort of salvage and reconstruction.” The Beginning of a Police State? This “Egbert” is a puppet fool, and quite a disgusting character, in my own opinion, though Wells seems to think highly of him. Wells envisions this king renouncing his titles and privileges, and hurrying on foot to lay his crown at the feet of the new world order, for the good of the world. Meanwhile, his assistant carries Egbert’s beer as well as his own, in the same style of servitude to which he was already well accustomed. Egbert himself points out that he will still be leading, as in having a part in the new world order government, just with a different title. Therein is the rub, as Shakespeare would say, for in one world government, we are merely trading a score of corrupt leaders who fight for control, for one corrupt leader with total power to dominate and subjugate the whole Earth. I wouldn’t want to give that kind of power to any old Egbert, be he king or jungle chief. But, the point of Egbert is that Wells believes the world can be rid of evil, greed, domination, and the wars of “flag and country” by a simple decision to live in peace. He seems to not be aware that all these evils are inherent in man, and will be in the world, so long as man is here. The following bit is eerie when we see Wells’ ideas forced upon mankind, and a king killed for rebelling against handing over his country. So, it’s the usual fare, with ‘submit willingly or die.’ This is an evil and sadistic philosophy in and of itself. And, world peace at what price? Wells was not only a Socialist, but believed in liberal Fascism, and promoted a police state type of “enlightened Nazi” one world government. The End of Private Property? Some of the other developments Wells wishes upon mankind include the end of most occupations, especially those involving farming and ranching where man works with animal excrement, which he thought of as a filthy occupation. Man would spend his days making art. He also ends money and ownership of private property, and we get to keep an apartment: “In the old days the common ambition of every simple soul was to possess a little property, a patch of land, a house uncontrolled by others, an 'independence' as the English used to put it. And what made this desire for freedom and prosperity so strong, was very evidently the dream of self-expression, of doing something with it, of playing with it, of making a personal delightfulness, a distinctiveness. Property was never more than a means to an end, nor avarice more than a perversion. Men owned in order to do freely. Now that every one has his own apartments and his own privacy secure, this disposition to own has found its release in a new direction. Men study and save and strive that they may leave behind them a series of panels in some public arcade, a row of carven figures along a terrace, a grove, a pavilion. Or they give themselves to the penetration of some still opaque riddle in phenomena as once men gave themselves to the accumulation of riches.” This destruction of wealth, private property, and freedom sounds all too familiar, in terms of political philosophies. Basically, he turns the Bible principle, “If a man doesn’t work, he won’t eat,” into the motto, “eat, drink, and be merry.” The End of Love? (After Free-Love?) Much of the writing style is quite emotionless and scientific, at least until the bomb is dropped. He sees love and emotions as something to be restrained for the business of scientific breakthrough and war. He says we have to move past our emotions because, 'You cannot stay at the roots and climb the tree.' He predicts that the need for love and human sexuality are just an adolescent “phase” mankind is going through, meant to balance out the dying by providing the temporary means of reproduction until we solve the dilemma of death. He believes that at first, after man is truly free, a time of “free love” will come: “…there is a vast release of love-making in the world. This great wave of decoration and elaboration that has gone about the world, this Efflorescence, has of course laid hold of that. I know that when you say that the world is set free, you interpret that to mean that the world is set free for love-making. Down there,— under the clouds, the lovers foregather… this release of sexual love and the riddles that perfect freedom and almost limitless power will put to the soul of our race. I can see now, all over the world, a beautiful ecstasy of waste; "Let us sing and rejoice and be lovely and wonderful." . . . The orgy is only beginning,” But, what is it the beginning of? He believes mankind will also put those appetites away, and live in a higher plain, as he “matures.” There in those “last days” Wells believes that mankind will have longer lifespans and live happy and healthy lives focused on art. That’s it… just art. I know, I know. It reminds you of Kindergarten doesn’t it?! Actually, it is beginning to sound like a prison rehab pottery class or more likely Hell. I already know I don’t want to go there. The End of the Battle of the Sexes? As if it were possible for two sexes to become one, Wells wanted to remove any differences in the human sexes. This leaves the question, if two become one, then which one will they become? On the topic of the feminist movement and the role of women, Wells’ character had this to say: "'I do not care a rap about your future— as women. I do not care a rap about the future of men— as males. I want to destroy these peculiar futures. I care for your future as intelligences, as parts of and contribution to the universal mind of the race. Humanity is not only naturally over-specialised in these matters, but all its institutions, its customs, everything, exaggerate, intensify this difference. I want to unspecialise women. No new idea. Plato wanted exactly that. I do not want to go on as we go now, emphasising this natural difference; I do not deny it, but I want to reduce it and overcome it.'" Wells wanted no division of the sexes, no need for reproduction, and no holidays or customs to distract us. If you haven’t got the picture yet, you will because you will be painting it if Wells gets his way. Incidentally, one of H.G. Wells many affairs (with his wife’s consent) was with Margaret Sanger, the feminist and birth control advocate. His ideas of free-love and his politics were evident in this book. The End of God? In this new age of the brotherhood of man, there will be no Father above. Therefore, having no source, like bastard sons who have no fathers, mankind will be disinherited from all the purpose for which the Creator designed him. Wells considers religion to be, ‘dead ideas,’ and says that “The inertia of dead ideas and old institutions carries us on towards the rapids.” I have to disagree with this assumption, as ideas don’t die. The Russian author, Feodor Dostoyevsky would have agreed with me on that one, had he lived to read Wells’ book. Ideas grow and circulate, never dying, and always reappearing. If you’ve ever taught public school and seen the comings and goings of “educational philosophies” in a full circle fashion, then you know that ideas are like neckties, out of fashion this year will be back in fashion eventually. They can only grow so wide before they must become narrower. Wells seemed in-desirous to admit the fact he was an atheist in his public answers, but the conclusion is obvious from quotes in this book. They are quite sad, mournful complaints of a mind that felt abandoned, or perhaps ignored by Heaven. Here are a few of those complaints from his own words: “If some curious god had chosen to watch the course of events in those northern provinces while that flanking march of the British was in progress, he would have found a convenient and appropriate seat for his observation upon one of the great cumulus clouds that were drifting slowly across the blue sky during all these eventful days before the great catastrophe. For that was the quality of the weather…” Here he wanted merely to describe the weather as being a cloudy day, and instead placed God upon the clouds in observation, as if God were some fickle quality of men’s imaginations, as changing as the weather. Continuing his motif with descriptions of what God would have seen, he says: “It may be that watcher drifting in the pellucid gulf beneath the stars watched all through the night; it may be that he dozed. But if he gave way to so natural a proclivity, assuredly on the fourth night of the great flank march he was aroused, for that was the night of the battle in the air.” If it doesn’t seem sacrilegious enough that he accused God of sleeping, look a little further… “…it was decided to 'nail down Easter.' . . . In these matters, as in so many matters, the new civilisation came as a simplification of ancient complications; the history of the calendar throughout the world is a history of inadequate adjustments…” The bitter double entendre of that is heart wrenching! It is as if he wanted to add nails to Jesus’ hands with his words. Sadly, it was Wells himself, and you and I who nailed Jesus on the cross, and here is the worst of his nightmare… as Wells is dead and his ashes scattered to the wind. With all his predictions, he did not see the signs in front of his face. He should have been more concerned with his own future, than with the future of mankind and the bomb. Death is not the prerogative of science. His vision, his discernment, his intelligence and wisdom, and his choices had a time limit. Science won’t be able to change that. Yet, Wells thought to do away with religion and God. The End of the Book? (And this long review... I promise) Here again, we see Wells consistently tearing away at all the old institutions of society as we know it. Was anything in his dystopia the same as our world? Yes, there was one similarity. There at the very end, in the last chapter, the character Karenin the cripple is preparing to undergo surgery to attempt to save his life. They do not expect the surgery to be successful, and he is expecting exactly death. So, it is no surprise that death is in the last 7 words of the last sentence of the book. He undergoes surgery, which is “successful,” and then dies from a blood clot. Here I am suppressing a hysterical laugh. Seriously now, how ironic is that?! They harnessed the sun, for crying out loud, and can’t stop this simple problem of blood clots after surgery that kills so many people even today?! What’s more, he is a ‘cripple.’ Please! You’ve freed mankind from cows and horses and can’t save his legs? It looks like you might want to keep God around a little bit longer!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Noah Goats

    I've been reading a fair amount about the development of the atomic bomb recently, and the title of this book keeps popping up. In The World Set free Wells predicts (in 1914!) the development of atomic energy and weapons. He also predicts the importance of air power (planes weren't every used in a significant way in war before WWI), and the coming of WWI itself (he thought it would come in the 50s, instead it came months after this book was published). I enjoy reading classic science fiction and I've been reading a fair amount about the development of the atomic bomb recently, and the title of this book keeps popping up. In The World Set free Wells predicts (in 1914!) the development of atomic energy and weapons. He also predicts the importance of air power (planes weren't every used in a significant way in war before WWI), and the coming of WWI itself (he thought it would come in the 50s, instead it came months after this book was published). I enjoy reading classic science fiction and discovering how intelligent men 100 years ago predicted the kind of world we would be living in now. I enjoy it when they get things right (Jules Verne predicting our voyage to the moon) and when they get things wrong (we would get their via an enormous cannon that would shoot us up in a huge artillery shell). And on this level, there were aspects of this book that were very interesting/entertaining. For example, I particularly liked how the atomic bombs were flown over their targets in WWI style open cockpit planes, and then just chucked over the side by hand after the bombardier had pulled the pin with his teeth. The first half of the book is packed with this sort of thing, and I liked it very much, the second half, however, really gets bogged down as Wells, having destroyed the world, recreates it as a utopia. This is boring, and the utopia (an anti-democratic, benevolent, totalitarian, technocratic, communist, one world government) is as naive as it is monstrous. Why Wells thinks that humans, who have a hard time agreeing even when grouped in relatively homogeneous nations, would get along singing kumbaya when forced into a world-state, is beyond me. And why he thinks world government would lead necessarily to peace instead of just making all war civil war, is also baffling. It's almost like he has never met another human being and doesn't know how we speak and act, and how passionate we can get about things like government, education, religion etc. Why would a world government make us act rationally? He never explains this. Also, this whole thing is written woodenly, and the characters are flat, bloodless and boring.

  5. 4 out of 5

    MJD

    Excellent book by H.G. Wells. If you like another book by Wells you will like this one. While it can seem a bit dated with fears of nuclear technology leading to massive economic turmoil with unemployment through atomic tech replacing workers in the workplace and international turmoil with nuclear technology being used in warfare (i.e. we have been living in the "age of the atom" for a few decades now and it hasn't happened yet); I think that similar problems - and possible solutions - that he w Excellent book by H.G. Wells. If you like another book by Wells you will like this one. While it can seem a bit dated with fears of nuclear technology leading to massive economic turmoil with unemployment through atomic tech replacing workers in the workplace and international turmoil with nuclear technology being used in warfare (i.e. we have been living in the "age of the atom" for a few decades now and it hasn't happened yet); I think that similar problems - and possible solutions - that he writes of could be applied to artificial intelligence technology in the workplace and in the military given all the warnings that some contemporary scientists and economists have voiced about AI. Through substituting references to atomic tech with AI the book can still serve as a warning, and as a book of suggestions, to the contemporary reader (note: the warnings about atomic bombs should not be dismissed of course, but countries for the most part have acted more responsibly with them than Wells predicted). Also, it's worth pointing out that the book can be interesting to read solely based on the idea that a book published in 1914 about an imaginary history of the rest of the 20th century could get so much right.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Randy

    I enjoyed reading this book even though I was thoroughly aware of the predictions about nuclear weapons. In fact, that was some of the reason I picked the book up. I wanted to read this legendary story about humanity and nuclear warfare. What did surprise me were the predictions that are not discussed with the same regularity. For example, he discusses automation and how a great many people are not needed to produce products. There was a great disparity of wealth due to this decreased need for l I enjoyed reading this book even though I was thoroughly aware of the predictions about nuclear weapons. In fact, that was some of the reason I picked the book up. I wanted to read this legendary story about humanity and nuclear warfare. What did surprise me were the predictions that are not discussed with the same regularity. For example, he discusses automation and how a great many people are not needed to produce products. There was a great disparity of wealth due to this decreased need for labor in his story. This is a subject the world is dealing with at this time. Yet, there is a bit of a dreamer in Mr. Wells. I read how the world would gladly embrace a world government based on socialism. Like a many political dreamers in the past who wrote about an elite group of enlightened men, they assumed they would act on humanity’s best interests. Everyone’s needs were fulfilled, and people fell into activity to provide service to humanity as their skills allowed. I even took the barbs at our election process in stride. From the outside looking in, I am sure it is as much a circus to outsiders as it is for us Americans. But we Americans know something these men dreaming of communism, socialism, and oligarchy of philosopher kings seem to forget. It comes from our fore fathers being students of history. Our government is not one modeled on the belief that men are good. It is the belief that men are evil and need to be checked. I enjoyed your book Mr. Wells, and you had an excellent ability to look forward, but you can keep your World Government, which would eventually degenerate from a Utopia into a totalitarian dystopia. I will stick to the messy, loud, irritating American habit of politicians calling each other out, and the news reporting endlessly on corruption.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Fil

    Slow, pedantic, naive and disappointing. Despite a few prophetic ideas this book was underwhelming. The world government was a bit too Euro-centric for my taste and it was proclaimed with too much dispatch. The ex-King Egbert, the King of the Balkans, the American president and "Home Rule" Indians were instances of racial, or national, prejudices... more than just an annoyance. I find Wells uneven in his writing, he could be brilliant as in "The Time Machine" and "The Invisible Man" (and please Slow, pedantic, naive and disappointing. Despite a few prophetic ideas this book was underwhelming. The world government was a bit too Euro-centric for my taste and it was proclaimed with too much dispatch. The ex-King Egbert, the King of the Balkans, the American president and "Home Rule" Indians were instances of racial, or national, prejudices... more than just an annoyance. I find Wells uneven in his writing, he could be brilliant as in "The Time Machine" and "The Invisible Man" (and please forget the terrible movies!) and he can be awful as in this novel or "When The Sleeper Wakes". As in the last title, this book was not engaging and it was difficult to feel for any of the characters. Disinterested would be a fair assessment of my mood while reading it. The ending was, for lack of a better word, blah and I was glad for those two beautiful words on page 138: THE END.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline

    This was an unusual book which at times is written in a very historical textbook-like manner in some distant future looking back upon our times. In other places, the narrative becomes more story-like and focussed upon certain individuals who have an impact on major events. This book is renowned for Wells' predictions of global warfare, the use of planes in battle and the development of nuclear weapons. It also places a strong emphasis on a social move towards gender equality and predicts genetic This was an unusual book which at times is written in a very historical textbook-like manner in some distant future looking back upon our times. In other places, the narrative becomes more story-like and focussed upon certain individuals who have an impact on major events. This book is renowned for Wells' predictions of global warfare, the use of planes in battle and the development of nuclear weapons. It also places a strong emphasis on a social move towards gender equality and predicts genetic engineering. This book also very graphically describes the violent consequences of war very well. It was ab interesting read, but despite the fact that Wells is one of my favourite authors, I do not believe from a literary stance that this is one of his stronger novels. Completed January 17 2014.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Shugga

    I hope this wasn't HG Wells best work because if it was the rest of his writings must be horrid!! If you ask me what this book was about, I will tell you I have not the glimmer of an idea!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Al Burke

    Wells' foresight can be prescient at times. This book is no exception. Certainly not his best work though.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    I listened to the audio recording on Audible.com as I walked/jogged on weekdays at 5:30 in the morning. In the interest of full disclosure, I did tune out from time to time. I did not find The World Set Free to be a page turner. Basically, man discovers nuclear power, then a nuclear war breaks out and finally, a new world order is set up and the world is a much better place. This book seems to be largely remembered as a prediction of nuclear power and nuclear war, but it also addresses social issu I listened to the audio recording on Audible.com as I walked/jogged on weekdays at 5:30 in the morning. In the interest of full disclosure, I did tune out from time to time. I did not find The World Set Free to be a page turner. Basically, man discovers nuclear power, then a nuclear war breaks out and finally, a new world order is set up and the world is a much better place. This book seems to be largely remembered as a prediction of nuclear power and nuclear war, but it also addresses social issues. Since this review was written shortly after the whole 99% movement in 2012, the social commentary seems quite relevant right now. Indeed, a small portion of The World Set Free comments on the disparity between rich and poor. Wells seems to predict several technological advances, societal ills and obviously, the nuclear issue and its possible aftermath to include a new world order. My problem with this book is that a lot of it reads like non-fiction- a narrator basically lecturing or reading from a history book. It is a book that I would expect to find on a high school or college reading list, one that would be trudged through and then discussed. Finally, each student would be required to turn in a paper drawing comparisons between the book, today's society and our possible future. Are we headed in that direction? What are the clues? During the most recent presidential election, which presidential candidate's platform would be more conducive to Wells' world order? I think I may have to come back to this and read the actual, physical book. It was probably not a good idea to listen to this one. And I must have heard the story wrong, but the new, improved world society seems to have magically done away with religion and self-interest, or some mumbo jumbo of the sort. And there are a lot more problems I had with the book, but I definitely want to read it first to make sure I heard correctly and didn't doze off one too many times, because it seemed rather disjointed and not quite as ingenious as many reviewers have claimed. I must have missed quite a bit. The end is what troubles me the most. I am going to have to do some research into this book and Wells to find if Wells is predicting this, believes it himself or both. The main character at the end encourages a more functional life, doing away with sexual love, individuality and gender identification. While I understand the argument as well as how it would do away with much conflict, I still think it is bologna. For example, Karenin states that women need to stop thinking of themselves as women but rather as intelligent beings. Last time I checked, I could do both. And just because I recognize myself as a woman, the opposite of a man obviously, doesn't mean I define myself in relation to a man. It is not my fault that was the word chosen for my gender. If men suddenly disappeared, I would still be a woman. The World Set Free is not going to read like a regular fiction novel. Even in the parts that tell a story, a lot is narration rather than dialogue. When there is dialogue, it comes across more like grandiose speeches. I would have enjoyed reading this with someone who agreed with the points Wells argues in this book, so we could have an intelligent debate afterwards. Bottom line- don't expect a beach read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    jjonas

    A childish make-believe description of the future with a poor attempt at a story thrown there in between. After a devastating war with atomic weapons, the leaders of the world (kings and whatnot) come together and realise that what is needed is a World Government, to get rid of all that national bickering and other miserable stuff. After this realisation, it's so much joy ever after, everything just falls into place because 1) ordinary people too have been shaken by the atomic war, and 2) they al A childish make-believe description of the future with a poor attempt at a story thrown there in between. After a devastating war with atomic weapons, the leaders of the world (kings and whatnot) come together and realise that what is needed is a World Government, to get rid of all that national bickering and other miserable stuff. After this realisation, it's so much joy ever after, everything just falls into place because 1) ordinary people too have been shaken by the atomic war, and 2) they all want the same thing. That's the politics of the story, and it's so childish it's almost unbelievable. The author basically writes his story along the lines of "wouldn't it be nice if things went like this", without any consideration for credibility. There are interesting sides to the book, but none of them have to do with the story, characters etc., but instead with how the book is an example of early 20th century utopian socialist thinking. (view spoiler)[After the war, "the capitalist system" has been smashed beyond repair "by the onset of limitless gold and energy", due to harnessing atomic power for productive, peaceful needs. A global language is developed – something that Esperanto was hoped, by some, to be in the real world, though in this book it's a variant of English that takes this role. The issue of money is discussed; should it be based on gold, land or hours worked? Interestingly, it turns out that the value of money is bound up with energy – interestingly, because together with human labour it's probably the only universal ingredient that goes into making most things. In the end, to back up the currency's value (which in terms of modern monetary theory [MMT] is a bit silly), the government promises to provide a certain amount of energy for every government bank note (so gold standard is exchanged for "energy standard"). And of course, there is global peace and harmony – "We live in a world that has come of age". The world is divided into ten constituencies, though I'm not completely sure how the government works: apparently government members are for life ("save in the exceptional case of a recall"), but the constituencies elect 50 new members of world government every five years. In the end there is some musings about gender differences and how they should be diminished (but not abolished), and even eugenics is touched upon ("the genius [of the scientist] Tchen, who was beginning to define the laws of inheritance and how the sex of children and the complexions and many of the parental qualities could be determined [...] to-morrow it will be practicable [...] if woman is too much for us, we'll reduce her to a minority, and if we do not like any of men and women, we'll have no more of it"). (hide spoiler)] Hal Draper wrote that there is basically two kinds of socialism: from above and from below. The World Set Free is definetely of the former kind.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    So, HG Wells predicted f*cking everything, including the atomic bomb, the internet, designer babies, the carbon bubble, intensive agriculture, Leicester winning the Premier League, elevated toast, manspreading, floss harps and Tim Wonnacott. Sadly, by failing to predict the on-line betting exchange he was forced to rely on his desultory earnings as a writer rather than retiring to the countryside on his winnings. Re: book, first half good (nuclear power yields loads of fancy inventions but also n So, HG Wells predicted f*cking everything, including the atomic bomb, the internet, designer babies, the carbon bubble, intensive agriculture, Leicester winning the Premier League, elevated toast, manspreading, floss harps and Tim Wonnacott. Sadly, by failing to predict the on-line betting exchange he was forced to rely on his desultory earnings as a writer rather than retiring to the countryside on his winnings. Re: book, first half good (nuclear power yields loads of fancy inventions but also nuclear war, incorporating perceptive discussions of the socially disruptive effects of new technologies and of nuclear strategy- with the Bohr-Rutherford model of the atom not yet published when he wrote the book); second half less good (dreamy visions of an enlightened post-nuclear-war utopia, with a benevolent world government parking itself up a mountain and pontificating about a post-sex future). As always with Wells, it's easy to read and a huge amount of fun, and in its favour the second half did yield up this line which I rather liked: “Education is the release of man from self … Philosophy, discovery, art, every sort of skill, every sort of service, love: these are the means of salvation”.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Vivian

    He books always as message and the future. In this book, he used a word for the first time in this this world "atom bomb" and we see this in the second world war where this thing was used. Before writing and thinking the book he read a paper on radium and the energy it posses we lead to forword thinking something called called aton bomb which was unknown then , the radioactivity study before it was there simply blows away your mind, it was unbelievable. Whatever he thought in that time has become He books always as message and the future. In this book, he used a word for the first time in this this world "atom bomb" and we see this in the second world war where this thing was used. Before writing and thinking the book he read a paper on radium and the energy it posses we lead to forword thinking something called called aton bomb which was unknown then , the radioactivity study before it was there simply blows away your mind, it was unbelievable. Whatever he thought in that time has become possible or will become possible, he was the first one to think about the attack from Mars (in science fiction ) though idea was of his brother Frank, but he took it to the next level a the heat rotating gadget use by the them in the book. He also was critical about the misuse of the invention we do and believed that our invention will end our civilization , he visualized the world wars in his book before anyone and a brilliant idea of the time machine and the 4th dimension as such to locate the position of the object the space.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Carlos

    Although I enjoyed the book I was not particularly impressed with it. Wells has some extraordinarily prescient ideas regarding the development of the world after the discovery of atomic energy but fails to make the book as captivating as his more famous works. He swings back and forth between philosophical discussions and war sequences leaving most of the ideas incompletely fleshed out. Lastly, while Wells did have a great quote about men thinking through the ideas of their time, I still found s Although I enjoyed the book I was not particularly impressed with it. Wells has some extraordinarily prescient ideas regarding the development of the world after the discovery of atomic energy but fails to make the book as captivating as his more famous works. He swings back and forth between philosophical discussions and war sequences leaving most of the ideas incompletely fleshed out. Lastly, while Wells did have a great quote about men thinking through the ideas of their time, I still found some of the ending passages gratingly misogynistic. Overall the book was ok but could definitely have been better.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Selena Beckman-Harned

    Wells' 1914 tale of a world first ultra-modernized by atomic power, then mostly destroyed by it, then remade into a fabulous utopia with one language, one common government, and apparently no societal problems is on the one hand eerily prescient and on the other a bit laughably unbelievable. It's completely astonishing how Wells predicted nuclear war, but the utopia he describes is just cartoonish in its simplicity and lacks any details that would help me believe it could really come to pass. He Wells' 1914 tale of a world first ultra-modernized by atomic power, then mostly destroyed by it, then remade into a fabulous utopia with one language, one common government, and apparently no societal problems is on the one hand eerily prescient and on the other a bit laughably unbelievable. It's completely astonishing how Wells predicted nuclear war, but the utopia he describes is just cartoonish in its simplicity and lacks any details that would help me believe it could really come to pass. He skates around issues of race and religion and sex and basically just assumes that white European guys know what's best for everybody and will fix the planet. A fascinating, if plodding at times and infuriating at other times, read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Liviu Szoke

    Mai mult comentariu social decât roman SF, cred că este unul din primele romane care a prevăzut utilizarea bombei atomice și efectele sale, deși autorul nu și-a imaginat nici pe departe scara distrugerilor pe care aceasta le-ar putea cauza.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    One of Wells lesser known works this is worth the read for those who enjoy the socio-political commentary of one of the worlds great writers. It's in the public domain for those who are interested...good stuff!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Willa Grant

    Such an amazing author! How did H.G. Wells know the things he knew? This story was horrifying & amazing & I really loved it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Peter Macinnis

    Well, what can you say about a book, published in 1913, which predicted the atomic bomb? OK, he had it being used on Berlin in 1956, but not bad, not bad ata all.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brittnie

    Instead of reading the book Read Vicky Hunt's goodreads review.

  22. 4 out of 5

    John

    Remarkable sci-fi by H.G. Wells written in 1914 in which he imagines what will happen when the world obtains nuclear energy. Biplanes dropping A-bombs, for example.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Warren Fournier

    This is one of the more unsettling pieces of sci-fi I've read. I say "unsettling" not because of the early predictions of use of atomic power as energy, and most often cited by other reviews, nuclear war, but by the future echoes of Brexit, Marine LePen, and the question of a viable European union. This book is as relevant today as it was in World War I. This novel was written in what many consider to be a low point in Wells' career. By this point, Wells was quite well off and comfortable in his This is one of the more unsettling pieces of sci-fi I've read. I say "unsettling" not because of the early predictions of use of atomic power as energy, and most often cited by other reviews, nuclear war, but by the future echoes of Brexit, Marine LePen, and the question of a viable European union. This book is as relevant today as it was in World War I. This novel was written in what many consider to be a low point in Wells' career. By this point, Wells was quite well off and comfortable in his career as a writer, and so fell victim to what we see in Celebrity of today. His art became less important than his agenda. Narrative took second billing to his own voice. Therefore, much of this work is expository. His self-importance emboldens him to rattle on about his own politics rather than couch his message in a story in which readers will sympathetically invest. In fact, it was hard to connect to anything in this novel at all. Wells was sympathetic to a one-world state, so he introduces "antagonists" who many readers do not necessarily identify as "bad guys." For example, a Slavic king (presumably of Serbia) is depicted as being the sole stubborn enemy of a world government. Wells would have us believe this king of an ignorant and barbaric people is stubbornly clinging to romantic notions of individual sovereign states. His cold-blooded demise at the hands of the United Council is chilling to the reader, but supposed to be justified. The days of independent nations warring constantly with each other must inevitably end or the human race will face extinction. Therefore, such populism must be controlled by a group of intellectual elites who know better. Wells hates monarchies and colonialism so much that it is unclear if he ever realized his "inevitable" solution was being portrayed by his own hand as quite chilling. This novel even suggests that the needed impetus to evolve humankind to the necessary New World Order was the nuclear holocaust, and that perhaps a few strategic atomic explosions here and there might be needed in the future to keep the masses in check. This novel seems to sympathize with the common man, the laborer, exploited and forgotten in an era where technology has created unlimited potential wealth and energy so quickly that our antiquated system of laws and economy could not keep up with the welfare of most the working-class. Yet, throughout the novel, the "masses" are portrayed as peasants, ignorant, incapable of anything other than their ancestral ape-like tribalism, and thus incapable of taking care of their own needs. Thus, this novel tells us how terrible and tragic it is that whole civilizations must succumb to rule of a few, but that is what will set the world free. Whether or not you share Wells' vision in this novel, it is definitely worth the read. It just goes to show how old this debate goes back in history of industrialized nations, and invites modern readers to think seriously about what they want their own future to be.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dirck de Lint

    This is a re-reading, prompted by a recent look at a more recent work of Utopian literature and I realize why I didn't maintain the memory of it from the decade previous. It is very much a work of its time (just ahead of WWI), and it has the usual flaws of an older semi-political, semi-polemical fiction; there's a lot of unified ideas and attitudes all of a sudden, people en masse realizing the error of previous ways, which is hard to accept as a reader because such shifts are generally impossib This is a re-reading, prompted by a recent look at a more recent work of Utopian literature and I realize why I didn't maintain the memory of it from the decade previous. It is very much a work of its time (just ahead of WWI), and it has the usual flaws of an older semi-political, semi-polemical fiction; there's a lot of unified ideas and attitudes all of a sudden, people en masse realizing the error of previous ways, which is hard to accept as a reader because such shifts are generally impossible in a time-scale a reader can envision... or even, really, a writer. That's definitely the case here, because while Wells tries to set the changes in train with an apocalyptic war at the end of thirty years of technology-induced social upheaval, it still comes across as something of, "I'll just put this handkerchief over your late-stage capitalist world-view and... ALAKAZAM! Right before your eyes, an enlightened socialist Utopia!" I say this as someone who pines for an enlightened socialist Utopia, too. However, there are a few points that the modern reader can really enjoy if not become immersed in. Wells's conception of atomic bombs, a very early one so far as I know, falls in an interesting place between the pre-1945 theoretical poles of "it won't work" and "it will ignite the whole planet." While less instantly destructive than the devices as we know them, there is a real horror in the idea of a bomb that doesn't spend itself in an instant, but which keeps running until the effect of half-life decay reduces its active element to a size too small to do any harm. Yike. We are also treated to the early attempts to promote gender equality, from a chap living at a time when the vocabulary for that sort of thing hardly existed, and which to a modern eye are charmingly precocious and pitiably naive. Mixed in with that is what I didn't really recognize ten years ago as a foresight of the possibility of genetic manipulation for pure aesthetics; wild coincidence sees me reading an Iain Banks 'Culture' novel at the same time, for an odd before/after sensation.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Raj

    This may be a prophetic book, but I didn't hugely enjoy reading it. Wells foresees atomic energy and the horrors of atomic bombs, although in very different shapes to reality, as well as the use of aircraft in warfare. I must confess that I nearly gave up after the prologue, which just felt didactic and leaden, but the first proper chapter (after a dull introduction to radioactivity, as understood at the dawn of the 20th century) was interesting, as it sketched the problems of humanity and natio This may be a prophetic book, but I didn't hugely enjoy reading it. Wells foresees atomic energy and the horrors of atomic bombs, although in very different shapes to reality, as well as the use of aircraft in warfare. I must confess that I nearly gave up after the prologue, which just felt didactic and leaden, but the first proper chapter (after a dull introduction to radioactivity, as understood at the dawn of the 20th century) was interesting, as it sketched the problems of humanity and nations in that era. However, it didn't really last. Wells' "war to end all wars" didn't happen until the 1950s (bear in mind this book was written in 1913, before the First World War) and his war really did end all war, by creating a new world government that set about creating a utopia in fairly short order. With the advantage of hindsight, we see what would really happen after a globe-spanning war with the use of nuclear weapons - what always happens: politicians squabble and jostle for advantage. What unity there is never lasts, which makes the speed and ease by which the world government is set up difficult to suspend disbelief for. The last chapter is somewhat odd as well, as it focuses on an individual in the new order, as he is dying. Said person holds forth on the nature of humanity, and that knowledge, not love, is the driving force behind it. This is puzzling, because it doesn't really fit well with what came before, and seems sort of pointless. It's not like Wells needs a mouthpiece for his views - the whole book has been nothing but, and the narrator has quite happily fulfilled that role previously. Disjointed, didactic, stuffy and generally not a captivating book. Has historical merit, and is of interest for its prophetic power, but not as a novel.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    3.5 Stars only because it bored me at times. I have to state that I love H.G. Wells. He has an incredible imagination which was able to roughly predict so much about technology. He got a few things wrong of course, but in this novel he predicts the use of nuclear weapons and even calls them atomic bombs. He believes that the radiation will give a "perpetual explosion", which isn't true of course, but he does predict that there is the lasting effects of these weapons when used in an area. This bo 3.5 Stars only because it bored me at times. I have to state that I love H.G. Wells. He has an incredible imagination which was able to roughly predict so much about technology. He got a few things wrong of course, but in this novel he predicts the use of nuclear weapons and even calls them atomic bombs. He believes that the radiation will give a "perpetual explosion", which isn't true of course, but he does predict that there is the lasting effects of these weapons when used in an area. This book gets its good rating from me due to the fact that he wrote this before the discovery of the neuron and a scientist that discovered the neuron (or discovered nuclear reactions or something similar...can't remember) actually READ this book. I believe he stated that the story made him ponder if these things were indeed possible. Amazing how science and science fiction can influence each other. The final section of the book was more of a utopian dream of humanity. Unfortunately , due to my pessimism on the human condition, I felt it was pretty unrealistic, but hey, one can dream.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    For all the foresight that Wells seemed to have in respect to the destructiveness of man, it's a laughable second half that shows his utter naivety and ignorance. It was an amusing moment when he brought up Candide. I had, in fact, been thinking of Voltaire's piece for a bit before that point. Voltaire, for his part, I believe would have lambasted Wells for this utopian (honestly distopian/totalitarian) nonsense should their timelines have aligned. How Wells addresses the council and remakes the For all the foresight that Wells seemed to have in respect to the destructiveness of man, it's a laughable second half that shows his utter naivety and ignorance. It was an amusing moment when he brought up Candide. I had, in fact, been thinking of Voltaire's piece for a bit before that point. Voltaire, for his part, I believe would have lambasted Wells for this utopian (honestly distopian/totalitarian) nonsense should their timelines have aligned. How Wells addresses the council and remakes the world is really telling of his laughable views. Add in the gratuitous narrative of Karenin on gender in the final chapters, and this book really shows its 1913 origins. My greatest curiosity is really regarding what Wells would say when confronted with the world that had become in the last century since this publishing. What would he have to say. That all being said, that's not to say that this book isn't worth reading. I believe it is. But one needs to use analytical thinking and look beyond the atomic context that everyone seems to be hung up on.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    Starting with the good stuff: Wells' prediction of the concept of the atomic bomb and its devastating effects and the importance of aerial warfare is spot on. The prose is, as usual for Wells, enjoyable and some chapters are interesting to read. And then there's the bad stuff: The story, with a few exceptions, is boring, the effect of the bombs upon society and politics are unbelievable and/or exaggerated ((view spoiler)[the post-war council is admittedly somewhat similar to the ECSC after the se Starting with the good stuff: Wells' prediction of the concept of the atomic bomb and its devastating effects and the importance of aerial warfare is spot on. The prose is, as usual for Wells, enjoyable and some chapters are interesting to read. And then there's the bad stuff: The story, with a few exceptions, is boring, the effect of the bombs upon society and politics are unbelievable and/or exaggerated ((view spoiler)[the post-war council is admittedly somewhat similar to the ECSC after the second world war (hide spoiler)] ) and feels naive, the utopia might as well be a dystopia and the way most of the story is told, like some historical article, makes for dull reading. I'm generally a fan of both H.G. Wells and old sci-fi in general and I would probably have enjoyed this book and the ideas within it if I read it ~100 years ago but this particular story did not benefit from contact with reality.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Part history of civilisation, part political essay, social critique, war novel, utopian thought experiment, science fiction, future history... The World Set Free is an interesting book that ends up being something less than the sum of its many impressive and varied parts. Published in 1914, a couple of decades before the discovery of the neutron, and two world wars and three decades away from the first military use of atomic weapons, Wells's big-picture prescience is astonishing, although inevit Part history of civilisation, part political essay, social critique, war novel, utopian thought experiment, science fiction, future history... The World Set Free is an interesting book that ends up being something less than the sum of its many impressive and varied parts. Published in 1914, a couple of decades before the discovery of the neutron, and two world wars and three decades away from the first military use of atomic weapons, Wells's big-picture prescience is astonishing, although inevitably less so in its details. The reverse is true of the book's success as a novel: whilst there are some moments of powerful writing (Frederick Barnet's war story, the bombing of Paris War Control, the final moments of Karenin), they are ultimately in thrall to an erudite and worthy big idea that impresses rather than captivates.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stewart Cotterill

    If nothing else this book shows the innocent naivety of a world constructed upon, basically speaking, a communal line. Of course the horrors of the Russian civil war and Stalinism/Maoism were yet to show their bloodied hand in how a world set upon these lines would turn out, and Wells cannot be faulted for his innocence. Having read a few Wells books, I would venture that it’s not his strongest work but neither is it his weakest. An interesting book would be a fair assumption I believe.

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